How will Maine pick areas to receive new business tax benefits?

Written on February 27, 2018

Maine officials will pick 31 of roughly 123 low-income areas of the state for new tax incentives that aim to help distressed areas. The question is, how will they go about doing that?

I’ve put together a map (below) to explore the topic. But first, a little background.

The Opportunity Zone program is part of last year’s Republican-led federal tax overhaul. Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development said this week that they’re trying to figure out how to pick the communities that will qualify.

The program aims to incentivize investments in these areas by allowing financiers to avoid capital gains taxes for qualifying investments. The program’s targeted areas largely overlap with programs like federal and state New Markets Tax Credit programs.

As the New York Times wrote, the idea has roots specifically in New England mill towns, from the chairman of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett.

His interest, he said, stems from growing up near Turners Falls, Mass., which has struggled since the closing of its longtime paper mills.

Below are the 123 areas that Maine officials will be sorting through as candidates for these new tax incentives. The law caps the areas they can select at 31, but two could be from a group of 79 “contiguous” tracts, adjacent to a low-income area (also shown below).

In the map below, I’ve selected a few different variables that one might consider in picking the towns in question.

Use the sliders to start eliminating areas from the high or low ranges.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development is taking comments (emailed to deborah.johnson@maine.gov) on the following questions until March 9:

  • What criteria should be used to determine Maine’s Opportunity Zones?
  • Please specify tracts for consideration
  • Please include justification for any criteria and/or tracts in your submission